Friday, September 21, 2012 at 5 a.m.
Today's morning post requires a bit of reader participation. Go to Google and type in "Fort Lauderdale."
Results will vary based on browser, search history, location, and a host of other factors Google's all-knowing algorithm accounts for. But you'll most likely see that somehow, a long-ago-abandoned and now-defunct URL for the city's website -- ci.ftlaud.fl.us -- outranks fortlauderdale.gov, the city's fully functioning website, which it has been promoting and using for years.
This annoys and perplexes city spokesman Chaz Adams and Fort Lauderdale webmaster Mark Dennin, and for good reason.
While fortlauderdale.gov has been in use for a number of years, ci.ftlaud.fl.us has been around even longer, apparently.
"Google's algorithm gives a bump for longevity," says Dennin, the webmaster. "We've been trying to transition to fortlauderdale.gov... The other address is actually older and was active for a long time."
When using Google's Chrome, Safari, and Firefox from two different computers at two locations, ci.ftlaud.fl.us beat out fortlauderdale.gov. Worst of all is that ci.ftlaud.fl.us was a dead link that didn't redirect to the city's main page.
Adams, a spokesman for the city, said that ci.ftlaud.fl.us was ahead of the official site on his computer but that the link redirected him to the city's proper website.
It now looks like the City of Fort Lauderdale's Convention and Visitors Bureau has a stranglehold on the top search results, which is good for tourists but not for citizens interested in budget happenings and similar civic matters.
"What we're trying to do is really hone in on fortlauderdale.gov and bring more consistency and ease of use even though that old one is still around," Adams says. "Fortlauderdale.gov has been the one we've been promoting and communicating for a number of years... If you look at our printed material, fortlauderdale.gov is the one we've been using."
A search of "Miami" using Chrome brings up the similar ci.miami.fl.us, but its link actually works.
Are Google and its beastly algorithm to blame for giving preference to a broken and defunct city link over a functioning but younger link? Shouldn't the all-knowing search engine be able to pick up on that, weed out the link, and bump up fortlauderdale.gov?
Let us know in the comments whether the ci.ftlaud.fl.us redirected you to a functioning page or whether it showed up at the top of the search results.